I started out this year with one hive and one queen. Through splits and swarms and packages, I’m now up to seven queens for seven hives (brides for brothers?). Of the seven, two queens are home grown (raised from eggs of BnB1’s queen). All of them seem to be doing well at the moment.
I’ve had a post in mind for a while about the queens. My friend, Julie, over at Happy Hour At The Top Bar recently made a couple of posts about her queens (and how to spot one in a picture) which prompts me to update you all on mine. Of the seven, there are 2 that I haven’t yet seen in person, but I can tell that they are doing well because those hives have eggs, larva and brood every time I look. See how many you can find in the pictures below.
The queen in BnB1 came from the split from BnB2 and is the mother of the other 2 backyard hives (appropriately named BnB2 and BnB3). She’s been laying very well and after a slow start, the hive has been rocking the past two weeks building new comb and storing some honey.
Queens love to lay on fresh comb and BnB1 took a while before making new comb because they had the older comb that was moved from BnB2. But eventually, they started building some lovely fresh white comb and she started laying eggs on it. Eggs look like little grains of rice at the bottom of each cell. Usually I have a hard time seeing them, but they showed up nicely on this new comb.
One thing about BnB1 is that two different colonies in here have made comb perpendicular to the bar. When I looked on Saturday, I found this new colony did it! Geez! I don’t know what that’s all about, but it can be a mess to clean up since it was loaded with fresh honey and nectar.
After the split, this colony raised a bunch of queens and then swarmed with one of the virgins. Due to the weather, it took a long time for this queen to get mated and start laying. For a while there, I thought I was going to have to requeen. But, then there were signs of larva and capped brood, so I knew she was mated. But she wasn’t laying very well and I still thought I still might have to do some regicide. And, I could never find her. Also, this hive was loaded with drones that seemed to be eating up all the nectar so they weren’t making any honey. I peeked in last weekend and things seem to be right again. The drones seem to be gone (should have been about the end of their lifespan) and there was lots of capped brood so she wasn’t badly mated. And, I finally spotted her!
I did some comb rearranging and gave them some empty comb in the brood area so they could make some fresh comb and start making honey.
This is the swarm with one of the virgins from BnB2. Like her sister, it took a long time for her to get mated and start laying. But, they seem to be happy in their little nucleus hive. I find it interesting that they haven’t completely filled all the combs. Even the little tiny comb that Duncan and I found a couple of weeks ago is still just as small as it was then. But, there’s plenty of brood and bars of fresh honey and nectar, so they seem to be happy. This is my first time tending a nuc, so maybe that’s just the way they are since they are limited in space. This queen remains elusive, though – I haven’t seen her yet.
Hello Kitty (Duncan’s) Hive
This hive has been rocking this year and the queen is quite prolific. Every time we’ve looked into the hive, the bars are full of brood. This Carnolian queen came from California with the packages (from C. F. Koehnen & Sons) and all the package queens seem to be good layers.
During one inspection, we watched a bee hatch out of her cell (center lower left in the video), while Duncan’s sisters looked on from nearby.
A few weeks ago, we moved the follower board back to give them some room to expand (4 bars) and they filled those with comb and brood in less than two weeks. After that, we just moved the follower board all the way to the back. We need to go in soon to make sure that they are building straight comb, but our schedules haven’t meshed.
This was the second swarm I caught and they are pretty golden Italian bees. When we moved them into the larger hive, we caught a glimpse of her. She’s not as golden as I would have thought, but she makes pretty little offspring!
The hive seems to be doing well. They hadn’t expanded much into the new space, and the queen laid lots of drones, so I moved the hatched drone comb to the back so they could fill it up with nectar. It’ll be time to look in again this weekend to see what they’ve accomplished in a couple of weeks.
This package queen has also been fairly prolific although she laid a lot of drones early on also. I don’t worry about the drones in a full hive – if I take them out, they’ll just make more.
In case you can’t pick her out, here’s a closeup.
The workers have been drawing out new honey comb and are starting to fill it. I love finding fresh white comb with fresh white cappings.
If they keep it up, we might have some honey to harvest from this one.
Left Hand Hive
I’m still trying to figure out how to work the Langstroth hive, but despite my incompetence, they seem to be flourishing. Initially, I left the feeders on too long and they built comb up between the two jars and had some larva in there. When I poked through the comb at home, I found 5 varroa mites. However, in subsequent inspections, there haven’t been many on the screened bottom board, so maybe they are taking care of them.
After removing the feeders, I put on a second box because the bottom box was about 80% full. On the next inspection, they had once again built a comb up from the bottom in the same spot. I removed any extraneous burr comb and they didn’t repeat that the next time I looked.
The other problem with this hive is that I used old frames from the deadout that was there before. I took care to freeze them and clean them up a bit, but I think I probably should have scraped the foundation clean and rewaxed it because they keep building comb perpendicular to the foundation.
On the last inspection, I removed any frames like this and added in some frames that I got from Laura’s Langstroth. On a couple, I took out the foundation and added a strip at the top to see what kind of comb they will build (worker, drone, or honey). Eventually, I’d like to go all foundationless. It should be just like managing a top bar hive – more frequent inspections to make sure the comb is straight! I need to have some built out comb to put the foundationless frames in between so they will draw the comb straight, so it will be a slow transition.
I haven’t seen this queen in person yet, but she has been laying pretty well and the hive is burgeoning. I’ll try to get over there this weekend and add a medium super for honey if they’ve filled out most of the second box.
So, in summary, all the queens are doing well (even if some of them are camera shy). There’s still a long ways to go in the season, but we’re off to a good start! Of course, a post about queens deserves some Bohemian Rhapsody videos. The official:
Or, if you prefer, from Wayne’s World:
Long live the Queens!